Scrawls from Preston...

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Tue 08 September 2009

Making Google Earth work for us

In our school environment, we had a couple issues with Google Earth's default behaviors - here are my workarounds.

First off we have a student web proxy that works based on a whitelist concept. So we have to allow any web traffic explicitly. With the help of little snitch and ...

Thu 03 September 2009

simple weak password generator

There are times I need to create some easy to remember weak initial passwords for students - here is a quick script

Note that these are not strong passwords as they are the definition of "dictionary" passwords...

import sys
import os
import random

dfile = '/usr/share/dict/web2'

def main():
    for ...

Mon 24 August 2009

Managing mailman on the command line

Even though we moved our email from OS X server to google apps for education - we still manage our lists with a local mailman instance (still on 10.4). However the web based interface for adding new members can be a bit of a pain as it never seems to ...

Tue 18 August 2009

Editing long commands

Sometimes you get in a situation where you are editing a long command on the command line and you'd kill to be able to use your mouse to select a word or option in the middle. This tip makes it a pleasure

First for me their was the discovery ...

Thu 13 August 2009

Letting users get to (i)Work

iLife and iWork can throw up an awful lot of update dialogs and welcome screens for people who first launch them. For users on my network I wanted to prevent those from coming up

There are a number of defaults that can be set to make these not appear. The ...

Fri 07 August 2009

Geek distractions

Tools are getting so sophisticated now - that they can be a distraction for the lightweight or part time coder.

You can get lost in the ins and outs of git vs hg, choosing a database engine (SQL vs Key-Value etc), javascript frameworks, PIP vs Buildout and integrating with virtualenv.

They ...

Thu 16 July 2009

Pre-fetch Apple downloads as dmg files

In my quest to automate the workflow of managing Macs at work, I wanted a way to download disk image files from apple ahead of time - once downloaded the next will be to integrate with my watched install project from the previous post, and then auto lcreate the loadsets. I ...

Wed 15 July 2009


[update: project now on bitbucket]

**The Problem**

There is often the need in a deployment scenario to repackage an installer into some other format. This might be a [radmind][1] transcript, a simple payload only installer package or perhaps just a manifest of what exactly changed on the system.

Apple ...

Tue 14 July 2009

calling to the shell in python

This is one of the most frequent utility routines I have in many (most?) of my python scripts. Creating subprocesses in python is very flexble and powerful, but a bit verbose. Sometimes you just want to run a command and set a variable to the output.

from subprocess import Popen ...

Thu 04 June 2009

Saving time (and wrists) scripting Illustrator

Sometimes doing tedious layout work in Illustrator is both time consuming and hard on the wrists. In this post I show a quick example of how one can script Illustrator very effectively

I work at a school where I'm involved in putting together our yearbook. For several years now ...

Tue 02 June 2009

Two quick collage assistants

Despite vowing to stay away from Applescript as far as I can - sometimes its the fastest way to save a little time

At work I'm involved in laying out our yearbook. Honestly a lot of these pages are just quick photo montages. I've made these in both Illustrator ...

Mon 01 June 2009

Will iTunes 8.2 lock out the Pre before it arrives?

The iTunes 8.2 update came out today with some curious details that, when you squint hard enough, suggest that Apple is trying to lock out the Palm Pre even before it launches.

John Gruber recently [discussed]( the likely coming battle around Palm's ...

Thu 21 May 2009

10.5.7 fails to update PPC machines properly

One of the things Leopard changed from Tiger was who could add printers. In Leopard only admins could manage printers - a change made apparently because schools were complaining that non-admins were adding printers they weren't supposed to. But then it turned out that there were just as many cases ...

Wed 29 April 2009

Reducing size of iPhoto POI database

This is probably only of interest to those of you that have to deploy iPhoto over a slower (ie wireless) network.

_updated with corrections from comments_

The main application package for iPhoto 8 is over 300mb - of that 100+ is a Points of interest database, that contains information in many ...

Thu 09 April 2009

Screen Juggling

Ever since I had a Powerbook Duo back in the day - I've made a laptop my primary machine. There has never been a sync solution that I have found adequate - and with my current AL macbook - I'm happy with the performance and memory. The only shortcomming is the ...

Thu 19 March 2009

Managing Macs with centralized login scripts

Managing a large number of Macs at an institution often requires a hodgepodge of tricks and tools. While Apple packages some useful stuff os OS X server, many of the most useful things are hidden, created by the community, or rely on OS X's UNIX underpinnings. One of the ...

Wed 11 March 2009

setting up denyhosts to block ssh attacks on Leopard

Deny hosts is a clever python script that will monitor your ssh log file for repeated failed login attempts, and then add the offending hosts to a system blacklist. While you can disable ssh entirely, or move it to a different port, there are reason you may want to keep ...

Mon 09 March 2009

Voice to OmniFocus, revisited

__9/2/2009 Updated to work with now longer Twitter ID numbers__

back when Jott was free I was one of several people who were using it to get quick voice notes into [OmniFocus]( (OF). A couple of limitations of the Jott solution was ...

Mon 23 February 2009

Time Machine: poor man's version control

There are a has been a number of version control systems en vogue over time, CVS, SVN, Git etc.

I try to keep up with them, use them where possible, but don't put EVERYTHING I do in version control. Since I am on a Mac running Leopard, I do ...

Fri 20 February 2009

Getting the Screen Religion

After reading this [excellent tutorial on using screen](, I've started to use it more especially when on remote ssh connections. I wanted a way to invoke it automatically whenever I logged in, but only for remote sessions (locally I ...

Fri 13 February 2009

Twitter to Growl Agent in Python

While my primary Twitter usage is on my iPhone - I sometimes get behind and would like to not have to catch up with 100 tweets at the end of the day. I've had [Growl]( installed on my machine for a while now and figured it would ...

Tue 10 February 2009

Reading Django's Docs on iPhone

I'm trying to squeeze the process of learning Django into my busy life, but keep getting distracted by little projects around making the learning easier, rather than actually messing with Django proper (That should change soon). Anyway, while the official [Django docs]( are readable on ...

Tue 03 February 2009

Broadcasting text to speech with Python

### Background ###

As a busy father there are times during the day when I can not be glued to the computer, but am free to listen to something on headphones (ie doing dishes, cleaning the garage etc). Sometimes I listen to podcasts - but sometimes I'm out of interesting ones. I ...

Tue 03 February 2009

save compile time on a fresh machine

I had recently done some work on one machine and wanted to install it on a second.

The work relied on a number of libraries that I had downloaded and compiled from source and at first I was thinking I would end up redoing that on the other machine.

Well ...

Sun 25 January 2009

Purple is the fad

Here are icons from three apps I use fairly regularly - seems like purple is the cool color right now. Time for iTunes to change its color again.


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